In the four or so months I’ve been book reviewing on this blog, I’ve given out some pretty bad reviews. As an amateur writer myself, I can understand the crushing feeling authors get when someone gives them a bad review. Although I can sympathize with writers, I would never have started a book reviewing blog if I couldn’t handle giving out bad reviews when they are deserved. So, all you writers out there, please read on and keep these things in mind when (not if) you get a bad review.
1. It’s not personal.
Unless the reviewer is a complete jerk, a bad review is never personal. They aren’t criticizing you; they’re criticizing your work. There’s a huge distinction between the two, although it doesn’t seem that way when your precious work is being trashed. Giving you a bad review is not an attack on your character, beliefs, etc. It is simply criticizing a product you have put out into the world with the expectation that people will buy it and talk about it. If you’re still convinced that bad reviews are always personal, let me ask you this: When you last criticized a product, were you personally attacking the creator of the product? Probably not. And yes, your book is a product for all intents and purposes because you are selling it.
2. It may actually have some merit.
It can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between good and bad criticism, but there actually is some good criticism out there. Sometimes you know that a part of your novel is weak, say your characterization, so don’t get offended when reviewers point this out. You know it’s true, so why not work on improving your weaknesses? Everyone has some sort of weakness, so you’re bound to get some decent criticism. It doesn’t hurt to try to take that criticism and make it constructive.
3. It does not mean your novel is awful.
Just because one person says your novel is awful, doesn’t mean other people don’t like it or that it actually is awful. Some people find it fun to trash books for no reason in particular. These are the people you shouldn’t listen to because all they want to do is make themselves feel better. Or sometimes a book is something that a reviewer was forced to read because of contractual obligations (in the case of reviewers for newspapers and the like) or because they acquired a free e-book from a site like NetGalley and pretty much have to review it or it looks bad on their record. Maybe a friend recommended it to them without really knowing their reading tastes and they read it out of some sort of obligation to their friend. You just have to remember that a bad review is simply one person’s opinion. On the other hand, if all your reviews are bad…then that’s a pretty good indicator that your novel is awful.
4. NEVER RESPOND TO THE REVIEWER. (Yes, I’m shouting.)
This should honestly be rule #1 for authors: if you get a bad review, never respond to the reviewer, no matter how wrong you think they are. Just like when teachers yell at students, responding to a reviewer who gave you a bad review is tantamount to admitting defeat. Especially if you go psycho on them in the comments and thanks to the magic of the internet, your temper tantrum remains out there for all to see for all time. I don’t care if you have to take anger management classes for a month, learn kickboxing and listen to heavy metal music to let out your anger. You just don’t take it out on the reviewer. Word-of-social-media spreads fast and soon the reviewer is going to have more hits than they’ve ever had and you’re never going to be taken seriously as a writer again. The internet has a long memory.
So, to summarize this article: don’t take bad reviews personally, bad reviews could have some merit but you need to know how to separate good criticism from bad criticism and never respond to a bad review. Simple enough? Good. But if you haven’t taken lesson #4 to heart, please have your Psycho Author Implosion (which is the name of my next band) on my blog. I could use the hits.